John O'Nolan has written his fictional, perfect idea for a writing-specific WordPress fork.
It's an idea I can fully, 1000% support. As much as I like Svbtle (ignore my lack of updates, if you saw my calendar you'd not write on your personal blog either), something must be said for owning and controlling your own domain.
In a lot of ways, Ghost – which doesn't yet exist, but I hope will – reminds me of Chyrp, which was originally going to be like a self-hosted Tumblr. The project is still around but it hasn't amounted to anything.
Anyway, I love the idea of a small, lean, blogging/writing engine. It's great that WordPress has finally become a viable CMS (although I'll still take issue with putting it in the same league as systems like Drupal or Django, especially if you're dealing with hundreds of thousands of blog entries and complex taxonomies), but as a result, the focus has disappeared from where it started, which was a simple, easy way for people to start publishing their own thoughts.
Yes, there are lots of alternatives – but part of what has made WordPress, well, WordPress is its broader community of themes, plugins and developers. It'd be great to be able to take some of those features, some of that compatibility and focus it on the simple aspect of publishing.
Again, I like a lot of hosted systems. I'm using one to type this entry. But I also really love the idea of being able to control your own destiny.
The CW put an innovative ad inside this week's issue of Entertainment Weekly. Interspersed inside the pages, there is a small video screen that plays some video clips of new shows and then loads a live, real-time Twitter feed from the network.
The overall experience kind of sucks, and I think most of us viewed it as an exercise to get press coverage rather than a real ROI opportunity – but it's still neat to see tech like this.
After getting our copy of the ad, we were curious about what was powering the screen. I was guessing it was s small 2G or 3G radio and an embedded system that was just loading a single Twitter stream.
It turns out, there is a full-blown Android smartphone powering the ad. We took ours apart see all the details here and were shocked to find the phone.
At first, I was convinced it was a BlackBerry they hacked to run some custom software. Then, after pressing some of the contacts that act as keys, it was clear this was an Android-based BlackBerry clone. As best I can tell, it's an ABO A810. Manufactured by Foxconn, I saw bulk pieces going for as little as $29 a pop.
This is interesting for a host of reasons:
It showcases just how little commodity smartphone parts cost. At 1000 pieces, I'd imagine the advertising agency probably got the devices for about $20 a piece. Now, that's still awfully expensive for a 1,000 issue run, but that's probably less than what a designated embedded device would cost.
Android is truly the new Busybox/WindowsCE. If you need to use an embedded OS and you don't need the power of something like QNX (and really, who wants to deal with RIM?), Android gives you a full networking stack, as well as multimedia support.
It also made me question – just how many of the 950,000 daily activated Android devices are not used as phones. I think I'll ponder that issue for a future article.
Still, I remain stunned that we're living in an age where a full-blown smartphone is cheap enough to get inserted as an ad unit inside a print magazine.
Alas, The CW's bid to get press about their ad campaign worked. Well played, The CW, well played.
I have so much stuff to write here – it isn't even funny. I have at least 10 partial posts, but I'm bad at time management. Just ask my boss. Or my husband.
Anyway, with VoodooPad 5.1 out, I figured I'd write a little something about Static, which is basically Gus's version of Jekyll and similar in function to Svbtle.
As a big fan of VoodooPad, and basically Flying Meat in general, I'm going to give it a shot to see if the collaborative aspects would be useful for work. To me, that would be the ideal. Static generated blogs are great as no-cruft ways to present information, but most fall apart with multi-user setups. This could change that, while also offering an interface, via VoodooPad, that while still just for nerds – would at least be easier to explain to someone than Jekyll.
We'll see. I have a much longer post about the trends in personal publishing in the worlds. It should have been written two weeks ago. Alas.
Apple released a new MacBook Pro this week and I want one. Badly. More than I have wanted any gadget or computing device in quite some time.
The machine is pricey. With AppleCare, tax, an upgrade to 16GB of memory and a few accessories, it's easily over $3,000 for the base model. That's even more expensive than my 2009 27" iMac, even though spec-wise, it's not that much of a bump. Still, I want one. Badly.
As my colleague Pete Pachal described the machine in his excellent review, this really is computing in the future, today. I've only spent a small amount of time with our test unit – but in that time, I'm already convinced that this is the most significant Mac product update Apple has released in at least five years.
Thin AND Powerful
On Twitter, @JaceFuse said something that got to the heart of why I'm so bullish about the new MacBook Pro:
@film_girl Other than the form factor and screen, I seriously see nothing at all I’m impressed by. I’m also, still mad about the Mac Pro.
“Other than the form factor and the screen.” That's the whole point, this machine IS the form factor and the screen. Just as the new iPad was the retina display, the new MacBook Pro is the new form factor and the astoundingly great display. That's it.
Yes, it's about time Apple had USB 3 on its devices (but really, we had to wait for Intel to start putting them on standard, that's just how it goes), and yes, as my boss Lance Ulanoff likes to point out, Ultrabooks have been in the 15" space for close to a year. (Still, as I insist on pointing out to him every time the term Ultrabook is mentioned – that entire category is a complete reaction to the success of the 2010/2011 MacBook Air. Period. End of discussion.)
That doesn't change the fact that to my knowledge, there is no other “Ultrabook-sized” quad-core i7 on the marketplace. Dual-core, sure. Quad-core? No. That's a big jump. That's a big deal. And maxing out at 16GB of RAM is equally impressive. As is the discrete onboard video card.
On a desktop-replacement, that might be par for the course – but in something that still weighs under 5 lbs and as almost as thin as a MacBook Air, that's game changing.
It's as powerful as my 27" iMac, but in a package a fraction of the size. With a screen that has better resolution.
So yeah, aside from the form factor and the screen, it's not that great. Of course, the display and the form-factor are – to me – EVERYTHING.
The Trade Off: Serviceability and Upgrades
The big sticking point with my more geek-minded friends – and my husband – with regards to the new MacBook Pro is the issue of user-side serviceability.
As has been discussed countless places, the RAM is soldered on and can't be changed after purchase, the battery is actually glued inside the case, and the screen is fused to the housing. The hard drive likely will be replaceable and upgradeable with after-market parts from shops like OWC, but this is the most appliance-like MacBook Pro yet.
Already the gang at iFixit are making hay out of the issue. Now, I want to be clear, I really, really respect and like iFixit. Their rundowns and how-to guides are fantastic resources. I am in awe of their photo abilities and repair skills.
Still, when I read an editorial like this one, I have to call bullshit. Wiens makes some great points, but MANY of his underlying problems are directly tied into the fact that the lack of user-serviceable parts has a direct impact on his business.
His entire business is predicated on offering how-to guides for free, alongside tool kits and after-market parts. A big part of the reason he gets so incensed about the lack of upgradability and serviceability of the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro and new iPad is that the service market for those devices is very much attached to authorized Apple repair centers. The more appliance-like and non-user fixable these devices become, the more it affects his business.
I understand and respect that. But don't turn a threat to your business into a bogus argument about how Apple is hurting the environment and making the way for planned obsolescence, etc.
No, what's happening to PCs is very similar to what has happened to cars over the last 20 years. In order to be more powerful, more efficient and more streamlined, the products not only require less user interaction – they inhibit that interaction.
If you buy a car today, you can't self-service it the same way you could in 1992, let alone 1972 or 1982. The machines are much more complex. As a consequence, you're less likely to locate a guy who charges 1/10th the price of the dealer to fix your 2004 Volkswagen. It's just the way it is.
As a value-conscious consumer, I don't love the fact that you have to max out the RAM upon purchase of a MacBook Pro retina or MacBook Air – but I accept that it's the price for this kind of progress.
Moreover, the RAM and the hard drive have historically been the only really user-replaceable aspects of the MacBook line – swapping out an optical drive for a second hard drive or replacing a battery aside. It's not as if I can replace the integrated graphics card on the MacBook Pro I'm typing on without spending a ton of money trying to track down the part – at which point, I might as well just take it some place with the actual connections.
If the new MacBook Pro means that I have to take it in to Apple or TekServe for repair if it needs a new battery or has an issue with the screen – well, OK.
Frankly, the fact that computers are now powerful enough to be built more as appliances is great news. This is progress – even if it rankles the collars of nerds everywhere.
I have to say, going into Airtime, I wasn't that keen on the service. It's Chatroulette, what's the big deal.
So I fire up the service today and login and I see this familiar looking guy staring back. I don't want to be presumptuous and ask the guy if he's Sean Parker – after all, he look like that everyguy you see all over this city – but my thoughts are confirmed a few minutes later when he adds me as his friend, I confirm and find out that yes, I'm sharing videos with one of the founders of the service.
Using the video sharing feature, I shared a clip from The Social Network featuring the faux-Sean Parker, AKA Justin Timberlake. Sean was a good sport about it – even though I'm sure he hates it when people bring the movie up to him.
All in all, not a bad way to start the afternoon.
Incidentally – I see real viral potential with Airtime that I wasn't expecting to see. Especially with the people already on your friends or Facebook friends list. This is disruptive – and I have to admit, I wasn't expecting that.
I also wasn't expecting it to be fun – but Valley-celebrities aside, it actually was.
I'm not sure if this has the longterm potential to stay popular – or if it will fizzle out and be this summer's TurnTable.fm. Still, I'm looking forward to using it again.
One of my most favorite web services is Instapaper. For the last four years, it's a service I have turned to time and time again, to reference, discover and save longform articles.
After moving to New York last year, the service went from being something I interacted with a few times during the week to being a daily use tool. Why? Subway rides. I love reading and discovering great content while traveling from Brooklyn to NYC. It's part of my morning or evening routine.
When Marco introduced subscriptions, I eagerly paid up, just to support the service and its creator. It's something I truly love.
Here's the problem – sometimes I'm not in a position to read my articles. Maybe I've got to stand up the whole ride to NYC (or back to Brooklyn) and can't have my phone out enough to consistently read. Maybe I'm walking the half a mile between my apartment and the subway station and I have to actually pay attention to my surroundings…maybe my eyes hurt.
In those cases, I've always wished I could listen to audio versions of my Instapaper queue. Years ago, I used to pay for the daily edition of The New York Times headlines from Audible and download them to my iPod. Today, that wouldn't work because I'd want to hear a broader selection of content.
Enter SpokenLayer. SpokenLayer is a New York-based startup that launched this week. It's basically like Instapaper, but instead of saving articles in a format that's easy to read, it turns that text into audio.
It does this in two ways. The first way is to generate text-to-speech versions of articles using an RSS feed and the latest computer-generated voice processors. The second is by using professional voice artists to record the most popular articles.
This isn't a new idea; people have been trying to crack this nut for years. But SpokenLayer is the closest I've seen to actually solving the problem.
The company just released its iPhone app [iTunes link] and its launched with partnerships with The AP, The Atlantic and AOL Tech. I'm told new partnerships will be announced soon.
The current iPhone app doesn't allow for offline listening – but that – and the ability to create an audio queue of content from across the web – is coming soon.
Even without offline listening, the app is slick. The mixture of computer-generated and human-read articles is nicely balanced for now – and many of the computer-generated voices are easy to listen to.
I know the founder and CEO of SpokenLayer, Will Mayo. My husband co-works out of his home office – so I suppose I'm a bit biased. Still, there are tons of tech companies I don't write about that were started by people I know or are friendly with.
The idea behind SpokenLayer was actually born from Mayo's own struggles with reading growing up. He's dyslexic and always needed audio versions of his books – even his engineering textbooks.
Now, I've never had a problem reading. I was reading before kindergarden and I have a near-photographic memory. Still, I can also learn by listening to things – and as I said, it's a great way for me to get information into my head in situations where I cannot read.
For the last few days, I've been listening to articles from the web using my iPhone and SpokenLayer on my walk back and forth from the subway. For me, it's the perfect aural counterpart to my beloved Instapaper.
This faux-ad for Prometheus from Fox is a work of pure brilliance. The entire campaign, which I give an overview of here is extremely well constructed and is an example of a studio and ad agency understanding the audience for a film.
Tremendous work. I'm beyond proud that Mashable was able to be the partner premiere partner for this clip and look forward to seeing the film on June 8.
David Samuels has penned an incredible feature and profile about Kanye West for The Atlantic, perfectly titled “American Mozart.”
It's an amazing bit of culture writing serving not just as an extended review of the Watch The Throne tour and the diametric artistry employed by West and Jay-Z, but by also zeroing in on exactly what makes Kanye such a genius.
That Kanye West is a musical genius is not new; it's been accepted as fact since 2004's The College Dropout. Still, assertions of that genius almost always accompany caveats about his attitude and his public behavior. Yeah, Kanye's a genius – but he's also an asshole. Or as President Obama is quoted in the article, “He is a jackass. But he's talented.”
That caveat is absolutely well deserved but it too often acts to minimize that genius.
While Samuels acknowledges the personality issue – in fact, it's a core tenant in his article – he also fully recognizes the talent.
As Kanye and Jay kick into gear on “Gotta Have It,” I finally recognize the James Brown sample that Kanye is using—a bare snippet of “My Thang.” It’s a sex song with sinewy-sweet, insistent rhythms and a knock-’em-dead vocal from the Godfather of Soul. The two-and-a-half-second sample that Kanye has woven into his new song is in a way a tribute to his own gift for economy. It shows that the same producer who can mix 11 different voices in the studio version of “All of the Lights” and clear the rights to half of “Try a Little Tenderness” at God knows what cost can also pinch a dollar when he needs to, and use a note of someone else’s voice as a single element in his own collage. It’s also a sign of how bleak this branch, at least, of black popular music has become since the days of James Brown, who embodied the sensual urgency of right now, baby—a far cry from the cold-eyed tales of drugs, ego, paranoia, and high-end luxury goods being retailed onstage. “Squeeze me, hold me, roll me, make me scream, make me feel, gimme my thang” was an urgent plea for sex, but the warmth of the music spoke of an even more elemental need for human connection. All that’s left now is a harder-edged version of the last phrase, in which the need for human connection has been canceled out. Whatever faults he may have as a person, Kanye is preternaturally self-aware. The sad, attenuated, one-note version of Brown’s lyric haunting the coked-out beat is the point of the song.